Proposal for new stormwater charge pushed back to September

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Road sign warning of flooded road on Belmont Avenue in Ottawa South on April 15, 2014. PAT MCGRATH

Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Funding a controversial stormwater fee partially through taxes could be one option City of Ottawa staff consider before making a recommendation in September, according to council’s environment chair.

But Coun. David Chernushenko says residents who currently aren’t contributing money to the stormwater program won’t be let off the hook.

“I think the city has been clear from the outset that if you are receiving a service, you need to contribute towards it,” Chernushenko said Tuesday. “What is the fair amount that you’re contributing towards it? That’s the hard part to work out.”

The staff proposal to change the water and sewer rate structure, including a plan to recoup funds for stormwater services, was originally expected to be tabled this month. Results from a series of public consultations convinced staff to come up with more options.

The city plans to release a report on the public consultations in the coming weeks.

Most of the fuss is over the city’s plan to charge about 45,000 landowners who don’t receive a municipal water bill a new fee to pay for stormwater infrastructure, such as storm sewers and ditches. Only water and sewer ratepayers have been contributing to the city’s annual $42-million stormwater budget.

The city came up with two ways on which to base a stormwater fee: property assessments and residential property types. A third option is the same flat fee for everyone.

It’s clear people don’t believe the city has come up with a fair way to charge people for stormwater services, Chernushenko said.

That’s what has prompted the city to brainstorm more options.

Ice build-up at water plant could cost Ottawa city $18.5M

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City could turn to federal and provincial levels of government for help funding the frazil ice fix

By Lucy Scholey, Metro

The City of Ottawa will likely turn to the provincial and federal governments for help funding $19 million to fix a unique ice build-up problem at one of its aging water purification plants.

The 85-year-old Lemieux Island water plant provides half the city’s drinking water, which is sourced from the Ottawa River. Since 2013, the facility has had problems with frazil ice – soft ice formed in turbulent water that can block intake piping. This has resulted in a “significant reduction” in the plant’s drinking water production capacity, according to an environment report.

That, and the frazil ice problem has so far cost the city more than $2 million, including the costs of staff overtime, divers, emergency repair and the installation of a contingency pumping system. Broken down, it has cost up to $700,000 annually.

So city staff are proposing “more drastic measures” to nip the problem for good. A pipe running deep below the ice cover, which will cost $17.2 to $18.5 million, is the costliest solution, but staff say it’s also the most reliable.

“It’s clearly a big number and not something we can budget for in the short-term,” said Coun. David Chernushenko, who chairs the environment committee. Drinking water systems are among the most critical pieces of government infrastructure, so he’s hoping the federal and provincial governments can chip in on the cost. 

Criticism prompts city to consider more options for 'rain tax'

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The city is having second thoughts about how to make landowners pay a “rain tax,” the most controversial rural issue since the city introduced biweekly garbage collection.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, chair of council’s environment committee, said the city is looking at a more “nuanced” approach to determining how much people should fork over to the city to pay for stormwater services. Feedback from eight public meetings has prompted the city to consider delaying recommendations by a month.

“We almost certainly won’t report back before June,” Chernushenko said.

The city ideally wants a new water and sewer rate structure by the start of 2017. Part of that involves finding a new way for all landowners to pay for stormwater management.

Landowners who don’t pay a municipal water bill will be asked to contribute to stormwater services for the first time since amalgamation.

Only revenue from water and sewer bills pays for the annual $42-million stormwater budget. More than 45,000 properties in Ottawa don’t receive water bills. Most of those properties are on private well and septic systems in rural or suburban areas.

The city suggested property owners could pay for stormwater management through one of three options: a uniform fee across the city, a fee based on property assessments, or a fee based on types of residential properties.

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, chair of council’s agriculture and rural affairs committee, said residents have challenged the city to come up with more alternatives.

Ottawa traffic study to steer clear of road tolls

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Councillors opt instead to study causes of congestion, potential solutions


Coun. David Chernushenko said he's pleased Ottawa's Transportation Committee has voted to ask for a study of what causes congestion in the city and possible solutions. (Giacomo Panico)

By Giacomo Panico, CBC News

A proposed traffic study that originally included consideration of tolls and other forms of "road pricing" in its scope will focus instead on the broader causes of — and potential solutions to — congestion on Ottawa's roads.

The city's transportation committee made the decision on Wednesday.

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko had floated the idea of studying road pricing options in anticipation of the city's need to review and update its transportation master plan in 2018.

Chernushenko's motion called for staff to study "different user-pay approaches" as part of an effort to discourage private vehicle use and generate revenue to maintain roads.

But in an attempt to gain the support of his fellow councillors during a committee meeting Wednesday morning, Chernushenko removed the reference to road pricing, choosing instead to ask staff to study the causes of congestion in Ottawa, as well as possible solutions to reduce congestion.

"I guess by pulling that out it wasn't prejudging that that's what we would be doing," said Chernushenko. "I hope we can take a more neutral approach to understanding the issue and the possible solutions, without having that right there as a red flag for people who are just looking for red flags."

The tactic worked as the revised motion passed by a margin of 7 to 3, though it must still be approved by city council.

Despite backing down from a specific call for a road pricing study, Chernushenko said he's pleased with the result.

"Ottawa will for the first time be taking a serious look at congestion pricing tools, among the other solutions to congestion."